“The objective of Power Yoga is to strengthen the benevolent and eradicate the malevolent.” ~ Bryan Kest
One of the founding teachers of power yoga is Bryan Kest, a student of Ashtanga Yoga from the age of 14 under the direction of David Williams in Hawaii and K. Pattabhi Jois in India. I attended one of Kest’s weekend workshops and remember him speaking about the name “power yoga.” He whimsically considered whether he should have called it “Grandma Yoga” all those years ago, so that people would have a less confused understanding of the practice.
Sometimes I consider changing the name of my classes, too. For me, power yoga is about cultivating the power to be a bright light. It gives me opportunity to practice the power of choice, making wise decisions that directly effect my own experience and subsequently the experience of those around me. It’s true that the power of physical strength is a core component of the practice, as strength of body fuels our confidence and our sense of agency, as well as our sense of being alive and our ability to thrive. But there’s more to power yoga than that. There are other aspects of the practice that inspire me every time I’m on my mat ~ benevolent, life-giving practices like the power of gentleness, the power of self-compassion, the power of non-attachment, the power of suspending judgement. All of these attributes echo teachings we find in the writings of St. Paul in the Bible, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the practices of Mindfulness Meditation. In my experience, power yoga offers a safe space for me to practice being Christ-like, to practice sitting in the sacred space of God’s presence, to practice loving myself so that I understand how to love others. The hope, of course, is that I can get up from my yoga mat to care for my husband and children as Christ would, that I can go out into the world serving others as Christ’s hands and feet, and that I can pass through my door carrying the undiminishable torch of Christ’s love everywhere I go.
Do I succeed at this? Occasionally. None of this is easy, which is why the power part is so important. I pray for God’s power every single day, for the Holy Spirit to wash over me and fill me, move me and breathe me. A mat-based power yoga practice helps me to do this, too, this achingly beautiful thing we call prayer. Sometimes I can’t bear the thought of being Christ-like, but I can bear the thought of Christ moving within me. My power yoga practice helps make room for him at the center of my being, and it gives me the space and time to love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then I’ve nothing left to do but go out into the world and give my best.
This is what it means to practice as the catholic yogi.*
*This is the first essay in the series Identity: Living as the Catholic Yogi